Founded by a group of gaming developers looking to provide quality book content for kids, Epic! is a newly launched subscription e-book service offering access to a curated selection of children's e-books for $9.99 a month. The service offers a book recommendation engine, offline reading and launches its free iPad app today with a one-month free trial and a one-year discount rate of $79.99.
Epic! joins a number of recent launches of subscription e-book services but in this case one focused on children's books for readers 5-12 years old. The service launches with about 2,000 kids’ e-books from major publishers, among them Open Road Integrated Media, Lerner Publishing, and Simon & Schuster. E-books are streamed and Epic! offers instant access along with recommendations, badges and gaming-like rewards, offline reading and time-spent reading data for parents. The Epic! interface also emphasizes reading and does not include the audio, animation and interactive effects usually added to children's e-books.
The company has also secured $1.4 million in seed funding investment from Menlo Ventures, Webb Investment Network, Innovation Endeavors, Maven Ventures, Morado Ventures and others.
During an interview at the PW offices, Epic! CEO and cofounder Suren Markosian joked that the company was launched by “gamers gone good. ” Markosian is an entreprener, technology expert and gaming designer, who has launched a number of tech startups, among them Crowdstar, a social gaming venture with more than 200 million members. Markosian said he became “unhappy” after spending time online looking for book content for his own kids and decided to turn his gaming skills to books.
“I wanted to do something more meaningful than games,” he said. “There were plenty of games and videos online but it was tough to find good books. It’s more rewarding now to be working with books. “Previously, we created games that hooked hundreds of millions of people. Now we’re using our experience to get millions of kids hooked on reading.”
Markosian said the service will feature curated content licensed from major and independent publishers—no original content—and the venture will be adding new content every week.
Epic! features a management team that includes experienced technology developers as well as publishing and educational professionals. Epic! cofounder Kevin Donahue is an angel investor and startup advisor. He formerly worked at Google as v-p of content at YouTube and was a member of the video service’s original team. Emily Scheinman is Epic! content curator and is also founder and CEO of Bananseed Books, the largest independent children’s book fair organizer in Northern Californnia.
The Epic! advisory board includes Joanna Cotler, former publisher at HarperCollins Children’s books; Kate Klimo, former publisher at Random House Children’s Books and kids author and cocreator of the award-winning Baby Mouse graphic novels series with her brother Matthew.
Epic! cofounder Donahue noted: “Kids love books, but they spend most of their time playing games and watching videos on their tablets rather than reading. As a dad, I wanted to build a product that would allow children to continue using the devices they love, but engage them with an epic reading experience.”